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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Nov 20;854:328-35.

Redox regulation of the caspases during apoptosis.

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Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Apoptosis is now widely recognized as being a distinct process of importance both in normal physiology and pathology. In the current paradigm for apoptotic cell death, the activity of a family of proteases, caspases, related to interleukin-1 beta-converting enzyme (ICE) orchestrates the multiple downstream events, such as cell shrinkage, membrane blebbing, glutathione (GSH) efflux, and chromatin degradation that constitute apoptosis. Recent studies suggest that mitochondria could be the principle sensor and that the release of mitochondrial factors, such as cytochrome c, is the critical event governing the fate of the cell.--One of the most reproducible inducers of apoptosis is mild oxidative stress, although it is unclear how an oxidative stimulus can activate the caspase cascade. Oxidative modification of proteins and lipids has also been observed in cells undergoing apoptosis in response to nonoxidative stimuli, suggesting that intracellular oxidation may be a general feature of the effector phase of apoptosis. The caspases themselves are cysteine-dependent enzymes and, as such, appear to be redox sensitive. Indeed, our recent work on hydrogen peroxide-mediated apoptosis suggests that prolonged or excessive oxidative stress can actually prevent caspase activation. A physiological example of this is the NADPH oxidase-derived oxidants generated by stimulated neutrophils that prevent caspase activation in these cells. Pursuant to these findings, stimulated neutrophils appear to use a specialized caspase-independent pathway to initiate phosphatidylserine (PS) exposure and subsequent phagocytic clearance. The possible implications of these dual roles for reactive oxygen species in apoptosis, that is, induction and inhibition of caspases, are discussed in the present review.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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